Business is about to pick up, friends.
The first weekend of April is out of the way, and that means the first big fixture of the month is coming up on the schedule. And because the Coppa Italia always seem to provide a few scheduling quirks during the winter and spring months, the last opponent in a big game in which Juventus played in just so happens to be the team Max Allegri’s squad will face over the course of this two-legged semifinal.
Yes, it’s those guys.
Those guys in black and blue from Milan.
But unlike the last time Juventus and Inter played one another on the eve of the first international break of 2023 at the San Siro, Tuesday night’s first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals will take place in Turin. It’s the latest two-legged knockout tie that Juventus will look to build some sort of aggregate lead on its home turf, following in the footsteps of the Europa League success Juve has had at home last month.
It just so happens that the first leg of this tie comes at a time in which the vibes around the two clubs seem to be going in different kinds of directions.
While we await the final decision on Juve’s points penalty, the overall vibe around the squad is far from what it was like when the decision by the FIGC first came down. Juve’s on the cusp of breaking into the top six and actually competing for a Champions League even with said 15-point penalty, while there seems to be some growing optimism that the club can get those points back in a couple of weeks time and see them rise up the table into second place.
Inter, on the other hand, come into Tuesday night’s first leg in about as poor of form as they’ve been on all season. The heat under Simone Inzaghi’s seat is as hot as it’s been since he arrived at the San Siro, with some of his biggest names — like, say, the big Belgian striker who missed a hat trick of sitters over the weekend against Fiorentina — completely misfiring and out of form. Inter has fallen down to fifth in the Serie A table with the recent run of poor results, and if Juve’s 15-point penalty gets reversed on appeal then you can go ahead and move the Nerazzurri one spot further entering the final stretch of games this season.
Here’s the thing that has me very wary of what could go down Tuesday night.
While Inter are frauds and that is the official stance of this blog, the Inter that we’ve seen in Serie A of late is very different than the Inter we’ve seen in cup competitions. They’re a Champions League quarterfinalist, after all, and that is not worth nothing. Inzaghi, for all of his faults that seem to be coming up, has had plenty of success in cup competitions — especially against Juventus.
Or, as La Gazzetta dello Sport says, it is the cups in which Inzaghi finds his comfort zone.
“Teams like Inter when they are having difficulties are even more dangerous” is how Juventus manager Max Allegri described the situation for his team come Tuesday night. And while Juve’s previous first legs of knockout fixtures have been far from perfect the last month or so, they’ve been able to come away with the important thing there can be in these situations — the lead.
If Juventus does that, then another trip to the San Siro — which is almost a lock to be just as intense and fiery as it was right before the international — could be the thing that sees Juve playing for the chance to get a trophy this season. That, considering what the last few months have been like, would sure be a nice little accomplishment — and having a strong opening 90 minutes would go a long way in trying to make that all happen.
- Paul Pogba will miss out due to injury. Max Allegri said that Pogba has been training partially with the squad the last couple of days and will look to increase the workload come Wednesday.
- Leonardo Bonucci will also miss out due to injury. Like Pogba, Bonucci will start ramping things up with the group come Wednesday, according to Allegri.
- While Allegri said that Alex Sandro “is fine,” he admitted that he thinks “it will be hard for him to take part in the match.” All that being said, Allegri said Sandro will be on the bench, so this was just the long way of saying he’s not back up to total match fitness yet.
- Federico Chiesa will be available once again after missing Saturday’s game against Hellas Verona due to his ongoing knee issues.
- Adrein Rabiot is expected to return to the starting lineup after being suspended over the weekend due to yellow card accumulation.
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
On Saturday night, Angel Di Maria did something that he hasn’t done in quite a number of weeks in a Juventus jersey — played rather ... poorly. He wasn’t the only one to do so on his team and it came after he missed club action for a few games, but it was poor nonetheless.
So it’s understandable that he look ... a little miffed.
Di Maria is not the pick here simply because he had a bad game the last time he took the field. That might be a small part of it, but it’s more to do with the fact that he’s expected to be in the starting lineup for the first time in a decent amount of time — and that is going to be a test in of itself.
Before Di Maria got hurt right before the international break, he was Juventus’ best and most in-form player. Those two can be linked to one another, and Di Maria was very much giving us pause when it came to thinking he’s just going to be a one-year stopgap between one popular player who just so happens to also be Argentinian and maybe another potential South American.
But, with Di Maria suffering a minor muscle injury against Freiburg last month, those good vibes were suddenly stopped. We knew it wasn’t a bad injury, but we didn’t know when he was going to be back and hopefully in the same form prior to his injury.
So ... what now? Well, hopefully the struggles were left behind this past weekend along with that pretty boring performance against Hellas Verona. You do that and then we’re in business, folks.
And if Di Maria is able to show that he’s back to the world-class form that we saw from him before the international break, then getting the upperhand in the first leg of this Coppa Italia semifinal seems like a distinct possibility. We’ve seen what Di Maria can do in big two-legged ties when everything is clicking, right? So let’s hope that magic happens again.
When: Tuesday, April 4, 2023.
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 9 p.m. local time in Italy and around Europe, 8 p.m. in the United Kingdom, 3 p.m. Eastern time, 12 p.m. Pacific time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: Canale 5 (Italy).
Online/Streaming: Paramount+ (United States); Viaplay UK (United Kingdom); Mediaset Infinity (Italy).
Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, you can also follow along with us live and all the stupid things we say on Twitter. If you haven’t already, join the community on Black & White & Read All Over, and join in the discussion below.